While welcomed by the four sponsors, committed to paying up to $250,000, and nine other purchasers, charged $100,000 for the data, some want the universe surveyed to be broader and others narrower. The cost of conducting the survey is an estimated $2 million.
"The challenge any survey faces is that it cannot be all things to all people. The AP surveys focus on people who are responsible for growth in Asia," said Steve Garton, director, media research, Survey Research Group, Hong Kong, which conducts the survey.
Asian Profiles' most significant insights are into the fast growth and equally fast spending of the middle class. But publications like Time want a broader base while more specialized titles like Far Eastern Economic Review and Business Traveller lament the declining slice of top management respondents in the survey.
Efforts to produce surveys highlighting a publication's or satellite channel's strength across many markets are being stepped up, not only in Asia but in Europe and Latin America as well, as a result of more interest in regional media buys.
The difficulty, as the organizers of Asian Profiles know well, is trying to come up with an accurate reflection of the habits of all the publications' and networks' readers and viewers.
"While some people are saying the survey is not really an elite study because it is not upmarket enough, others say [Asian Profiles] should go downmarket," said Theresa Yeung, Hong Kong-based international research director at Newsweek International, a founder and sponsor.
Time is exploring alternatives to Asian Profiles that would take in a wider range of respondents.
"[AP] covers only the upper threshold," said Robin Johnson, president, Time Inc. Asia. "We also need to look at the rest of the demographic pyramid."
There has never been so much demand for regional research. In Asia, satellite TV channels like Dow Jones' year-old Asia Business News recognize the need to measure viewership, currently subject to wild claims.
"[Asian Profiles] is a useful profile of our largest audience, more or less," said Kent Hawryluk, Dow Jones' Hong Kong-based sales director. "There is no syndicated research regionally to tap into for a satellite TV company."
In Latin America, the first syndicated media research for the region will be available next month, covering, newspapers, magazines, TV and radio. Conducted by Audits & Surveys, New York, the study involves 5,800 people in 19 countries and will also include some purchasing behavior data.
Europe is on the brink of its most ambitious regional media research project. The European Media & Marketing Survey goes into the field next spring, surveying 60,000 people a year across 17 countries by phone and questionnaire in continuous, multimedia research covering the top 11% of Europeans by income.
"Global companies need to justify the money they allocate for pan-European or global advertising," said Harold de Bock, consultancy director at Interview International, a Dutch market research group that will conduct the research.
Interview and Time magazines will be two of five sponsors underwriting the project, which will cost $2.2 million in the first year. Mr. de Bock said CNN International, NBC Super Channel, Reader's Digest and an unnamed ad agency have all offered to be sponsors. Among advertisers, Philips, Canon and KLM are committed to buying the study, he said.
"It's been welcomed massively everywhere we've gone," said Belinda Barker, Time's marketing services manager.
If successful, the new survey could doom PES, until now one of the most widely accepted, although contentious, surveys covering the top 2.1% of adults across Europe. Several publications say that although PES 6, conducted by RSL, London, has been funded and is currently in the field, they would be unlikely to continue supporting both.
In the Asian market, Asian Profiles found a 23.4% increase from the last survey in 1991 in the number of "elites" to 1.5 million people with total incomes of about $45 billion.
"Disposable incomes in Asian countries are rising much more rapidly than any Western countries," said Peggy Lam, publishing director, Asiaweek.
But ownership of symbols of conspicuous consumption, such as personal computers and credit cards, vary widely in the region.
By far the most popular business travel destination is China, with Vietnam the fastest-growing. Most air travel is still in economy class-with 64.5% of respondents flying economy on business and 88.4% on vacation in the last year-but 35.4% did travel business class when on business.
Asian Profiles is conducted every three years and sponsored by The Economist, Newsweek, Reader's Digest and Time. It is based on in-person interviews with 9,012 people 25 and older in Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Taipei, Bangkok and Manila.
Juliana Koranteng contributed to this story.